National Walking Day lives in shadow of new obesity report

Paula Duffy's picture

Today is National Walking Day and the American Heart Association says that inactivity can double the risk of heart disease.

While the American Heart Association (AHA) understands that so many Americans spend more time than ever working for a living, it believes that we can get moving despite long hours.

"Employees are encouraged to wear sneakers to work and take at least 30 minutes out of their day to get up and walk. It's a great way to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity and to give your co-workers a friendly push toward a healthier life."

National Walking Day's sponsor is Subway, whose tagline is "Eat Fresh." Subway has become synonymous with its spokesperson Jared Fogle who made walking and eating fresh Subway sandwiches into his personal diet and exercise program and then into his career.

Jared at the age of 20 trimmed down from 425 a svelte 180 lbs. in one year and his connection to Subway began shortly thereafter. Fogle, now 31 years-old has become the symbol of finding a simple solution to a problem and being willing to stick with the plan.

The AHA lays out the bad news on heart disease. Statistics show that 1 in 2 men, and 1 in 3 women are at risk for heart disease, and research shows that poor lifestyle is a major contributor.

How does the AHA suggest average Americans tackle their lack of activity and/or their excess body weight? "My Heart.My Life" is a healthy living initiative working to help individuals and families understand how to get active and eat healthy. From finding walking clubs and paths to cooking tips and easy-made recipes, the AHA's initiative is more than enough to get someone started.

When did walking become something that you need to make an appointment to do? It took decades for Americans to get to this place and while the latest numbers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that obesity has somewhat leveled off, there hasn't been a dent made in the staggering numbers of obese and morbidly obese citizens.

There used to be a clear gender difference in obesity rates and that is no longer true. Researchers at the CDC found the alarming growth in men from 2000-2010 and the flat rate in women. Time magazine reported in January 2012:

"By 2009-10, the rate of obesity was almost identical among the sexes. In 2010, 35.5% of men were obese, up from 27.5% in 2000. About 35.7% of women were also obese in 2010, roughly the same rate as in 2000. “Men have caught up to women with respect to their prevalence of obesity,” says Cynthia Ogden, one of two researchers at the CDC.

Michelle Obama, the country's First Lady is into her third year of the health initiative called "Let's Move." Her suggestions are simple and include cutting back on high sugar, high calorie food by substituting better choices and take a few minutes a day to just move. Walking works, as does engaging in a sport, using a Nintendo Wii, performing yard work like planting flowers or raking leaves.

It isn't brain surgery and yet the resistance has become political in nature. Some candidates and public figures have either ridiculed Mrs. Obama, distorted her message or complained that "Let's Move" constitutes government intervention in the private choices of Americans.

One person who sees Mrs. Obama's initiative as historic takes a completely different view. is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel the Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Dr. Emanuel appeared on the HBO show "Real Time with Bill Maher" last week. He believes that in a couple of decades we will look back and view "Let's Move" as having been the clarion call about the dangers of being fat, as we do now about the U.S. Surgeon General's report in the 1960's about smoking.

Emanuel told Maher that Mrs. Obama's efforts go hand in hand with healthcare reform. "I was privileged to work on both initiatives in the White House. Getting people to eat well and changing people's habits come from public efforts not associated with the medical profession or the healthcare industry."

Even weight-loss companies are giving more than lip service to the necessity and benefits of cardio exercise as well as weight bearing activity. Weight Watchers includes goals not only for weight but for exercise. Members can eat more on the Weight Watchers program if they collect "activity points".

On National Walking Day, the American Heart Association just wants people to begin to participate or at least start to discuss how to help themselves and others around them. There is no need to become a contestant on the "The Biggest Loser" or even engage in that kind of daily intense activity. Walking will suffice.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Tvanbr


Submitted by TrekDesk (not verified) on
Walking for 30 minutes is great if you never walk at all but the message is somewhat misleading in our opinion added to a recommendation of only 150 minutes of moderate activity per week from the NIH. Maybe we should sponsor a National Sitting Day where Americans are encourage to only sit for 30 minutes a day. Any fitness enthusiast will roll their eyes at the health recommendations they read coming out of governmental agencies. A fit body tells them to stay in motion during the day. When they are forced to sit their hip flexors, back, calves and hamstrings send painful reminders that this is an unnatural position. We at TrekDesk Treadmill Desks want to post the following question. Are we aiming too low? Can we tell Americans to avoid the chair except for 30 minutes a day at any single sitting? We believe in aiming high.

Monitoring minutes spent sitting during the day is a concept whose time might have come. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

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